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WHAT IS CHURCH?

(And other stories)



Sy Newitt



Copyright © 2018 Eagle Ministries

Published By:

Eagle Ministries

Witney

Oxfordshire

OX28 6BU

Great Britain

ISBN: 978-0-9932387-8-9

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All photographs in this book taken by the author and his copyright unless otherwise stated.

Front Cover Picture: St. Mary's Church in the hamlet of Cogges on the outskirts of the old market town of Witney in West Oxfordshire. England where the author lives. This is a church that I am fond of as during the year 2008 the vicar and the church family cared for me and looked after me during a very traumatic time.

Rear Cover Picture: Royal Navy Sea King helicopter and RNLI Lifeboat rescue at the Eastbourne Airshow, Eastbourne, UK. Taken on August 16, 2015. UK. Tim@awe | Dreamstime.com.



Contents

Preface

Story One - What is Church?

Story Two - A Very Faithful God

Story Three - In God We Childlike Trust



WHAT IS CHURCH? (AND OTHER STORIES)

As Children of God we are called not only to spread the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven to those here on earth but to encourage and help our Holy Brothers and Sisters on their own journeys through life.

We may think that preachers are those people who go to theological college and stand at the front of churches leading services and preaching the Word of God but the reality is that those who are called to be “preachers” are just one part of how our Daddy God informs and spreads the knowledge of His saving love and merciful grace to the Children that He loves so much.

The reality is that all of us who are God's Children are called to be preachers. We are all imbued with the knowledge of Heavenly secrets and our task and our mission is to tell a dark, dangerous and broken world of those secrets.

That there is another way. A way of peace, love, grace and deep inner healing that if we will grasp so not only will we change from the inside out but the world will change as we become Christlike people and live our lives in the image of the one who was born to die on a Cross that we might live.

I was once a trained Methodist lay preacher and did a long and hard training course to learn how to be a preacher but in 2008 I was thrown out of the established church and into a deep dark pit of despair and hopelessness and there began the most incredible journey that I have ever been on.

It was in that deep dark pit that my eyes were opened and I found real faith and the real God and over the last ten years I have been on a very exciting journey of spiritual adventure and discovery that has changed me, my life and my faith from the inside out.

Today my faith is nothing more than a deeply loving and a deeply intimate Childlike relationship with the God that I call Daddy and in my writing I try and encourage others simply by sharing my journey and my simple faith in the hope that they too will be emboldened to take one more step along the narrow and sometimes hard road that we walk.

What is Church?” talks about what Church is for me today. “A very Faithful God” is some tales of how God provided for me and protected my aid convoys when I ran a charity doing aid work in the Balkan country of Bosnia after the civil war in the late 1990's and “In God We Childlike Trust” shares some thoughts that came to me after receiving the interpretations of three dreams that I had during 2017.

I hope that my ramblings will encourage you in your own journey along the road that our Daddy God has chosen for you to walk.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others.

Sy Newitt

Witney,

Oxfordshire,

December 2017.



WHAT IS CHURCH?

to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:21

During the latter part of 2015, through 2016 and into the early part of 2017 I had some interesting conversations with other Children of God about Church and this prompted me to put some thoughts down in note form on electronic paper.

The more I thought about the subject “What is Church?” so the notes became an article then the article became a long article and then the long article morphed into a short book as I spent time thinking about what the Church isn't, what it should be and what it means to me.

Much of the established mainstream Christian church, its leaders and its congregations are fixated with the idea that church is a building. We have go to a building called church to be at church. But I don't believe that is church. For me Church is not a building called church because it is just a building and we Children of God are Church.

In this short book I am not intending to state that what I write is the ultimate definition of church. It is some thoughts on what I believe Church to be based on my own faith, my own relationship with God and my deep love of the profoundly mystical yet very down-to-earth Celtic Christian spirituality. It is my understanding of what Church is that draws on many years of experience of going to Anglican churches from the time I was a very small child and later becoming a Methodist Lay Preacher and preaching in churches and chapels big and small.

And later still being thrown out of the established church and finding faith to be not religion and buildings called “Church” but simply a deeply loving and deeply intimate Father-Child relationship where God has become the Daddy I adore and that Church for me is the world that I have the privilege of living in.

And it is my understanding of what Church is from many hundreds of hours of prayer, contemplation and bible study and the very enjoyable conversations with other Children of God about “Church” that I mention above.

What has been so interesting about these conversations is that whoever I have spoken to, whether young or old, male or female, evangelical or conservative we are all agreed that much of the present day Christian church is not what Church should be and we are all agreed that Church is people not buildings.

But even the philosophy that Church is people not buildings is a spectrum and I have talked to people who have an understandable sentimental attachment to the old churches and old cathedrals and I have talked to people like me who are radical and would happily see the old churches and cathedrals demolished and their rubble sent to aggregate companies for recycling into road surfacing materials.

For those of you who have been brought up in Jesus centred “church” communities what I write in this short book will be old news and you may be tempted to say “I know all this” and if you do know this then be glad and very grateful that you do because there are many Children of God in this world who don't know it.

I came from a very traditional religious background where I was brought up as an Anglican and became a Methodist when I met my wife. For me “church” was the building I went to on a Sunday morning, and in later years the building that I went to on a Sunday morning and preached and led services, and the world was that big thing outside the church that I spent most of the rest of the week in.

Church for me then wasn't the world that I lived in it was the place that I was at between 10.30am and midday most Sundays.

This new and exciting realisation that Church is the world that I live in and that Church is life and life is Church has only come to me in the last nine years after I got thrown out of the established mainstream religious church and was a very exciting revelation that dramatically altered my whole outlook on God, faith and………………….Church.

And I know that there are many Churches in this world that are outward looking and have caught the mission vision and that they are lifeboat stations whose whole ethos is centred around rescuing shipwrecked souls. These Holy lifeboat stations deserve our gratitude and our prayers for they are doing the job that God has intended them to do.

So where I am critical of the church in this book it is those churches that are inward looking cliquey groups who have become Sunday morning religious social clubs. And from my own experience of being in mainstream religion for many, many years, both as a member of the congregation and as a preacher, there are far too many churches that are cosy Sunday morning clubs where the mission of saving lives has been discontinued and the lifeboats sold off.

All I want to do with this book is to encourage you to think outside “the church is a building” box and look at the big picture of the Church being God's world and His people and not something that is made of bricks and mortar, timber and tiles and ask yourself the question :

What is Church for me?


WHERE TWO OR THREE GATHER IN MY NAME

In the summer of 2016 I received an email from a lady who asked why she never saw me at church and in my reply to this lass I wrote these words:

I am at Church from the moment I get up until the moment I go to bed.

For me Church is not buildings but people and the world that we live in and if God is with us we are at Church wherever we are, whoever we are with and whatever we are doing.

Church is a pub (bar) or cafe talking to other people, Church is being at a football (soccer) match, Church is me at one of our member company's doing a packaging waste training session, or a packaging flows analysis or an audit and Church is me in the office with my colleague. Church is the Cornerstone Christian Cafe and Bookshop and its amiable manageress and volunteers near my office where I try and have my lunchbreak one day a week.

Church is talking to the friendly staff who work in the local McDonalds or the lasses at Nortons Cafe Bar in Witney town centre. Church is a group of God's Children gathered round a kitchen table eating cake, drinking coffee and talking about the Father and the Son that we love.

And Church was me talking to a cheerful radiologist called Hannah at the cancer hospital in the city of Oxford when I had a CT scan to test whether I had lung cancer.

And the following week Church was the time I spent at the same hospital with a consultant called Dr Moore who told me that I don't have cancer and that he was going to arrange further tests to try and get to the bottom of why I have been feeling so ill and so tired for the last two years.

Church was when I sat outside a cafe in a remote Scottish West Highlands village called Lochcarron one hot afternoon in the summer of 2016 and talked with a friendly and generous motorbiker called Mike about God and faith and admired the beautiful view across a sealoch (fjord) called Loch Carron to the mountains of the county of Wester Ross. And Church was the 30 minutes I spent outside the holiday cottage that I rented in Lochcarron chatting to a man who had rented another cottage further along the bay.

At one end of the village of Lochcarron is a bay called Slumbay and Church was the hour I spent sitting on my inflatable kayak on a hot summers day next to a yacht moored in the bay, that is ringed by the mountains of the stunningly beautiful Scottish West Highlands, talking to a very interesting man who lives in the village about politics, faith, our clan ancestors and the socio-religious history of the west of Scotland and the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

Church is the couple who are my closest friends and I sitting in their kitchen talking about the God we love and eating the wife's wonderful home made shortbread whilst lying on the floor is their adorable and very big Bernese Mountain Dog.

For my wife and I a very special time of Church was the evening of Saturday May 26th 2001 when we chartered an old steamer called the Swan on Lake Windermere in the county of Cumbria in the north-west of England. What lovelier way to celebrate your marriage than with an evening reception on an elegant little ship built in 1938 cruising on England's longest lake surrounded by the beautiful hills and mountains of the English Lake District with 100 family and friends.

And marriage is Church. Church is husband and wife journeying through life together and if we have children and grand-children then that too is Church. And Church is time that we spend with wider family and friends as well.

MV Swan coming into the steamer pier at Lakeside at the southern end of Lake Windermere. Photo: Stuart Yeates

As a young teenager I lived in Hong Kong where my father ran a bank and I went to an international school in the city and as a family we worshipped at St. John's Cathedral on Hong Kong island. I was a member of the cathedral youth group and a couple of times a year we got a ferry to one of the outlying islands and camped on a beach.

For us in the youth group Church was those times that we spent together on a hot beach on the islands of Lamma or Lantau swimming in the South China Sea and incinerating mosquitoes with cans of mosquitoe repellant that we were supposed to spray on our bodies but put a match to and used as flame-throwers instead. And at night our lady leader got out her guitar and we sat around a camp fire and sang songs.

When our leader found out that we were immolating mozzies with cans of Johnson's “Off” we witnessed her become a human flame thrower and she was not a happy Archdeacon's wife! Any adult who chooses to work with mischievous teenage boys must be a masochist.

Those youth group camping trips were fun and lovely times of Church and other times of Church we had were when we went out on my father's company boat and spent the day anchored in a bay on one of the islands swimming, diving, canoeing and sitting on the sundeck talking and singing songs. That was also fun.

In the southern English county of Hampshire, the county that I grew up in, there is a preserved steam railway (railroad) line called the Mid Hants Railway which is often known as the Watercress Line as in times past it was used to transport locally grown watercress to customers across the UK.

The Watercress Line is operated by volunteers and runs for 10 miles (16km) through the hills that are known as "The Hampshire Alps" between the old towns of Alton and New Alresford (pro: Alls-ford). In 2009 my father, who is a shareholder in the Mid Hants Railway, organised a footplate ride for me on one of the line's restored steam engines as a birthday present.

Unlike diesel and electric railway engines, which are just bland characterless boxes, a steam engine is a living fire-breathing being and one cold October afternoon Church was three very enjoyable hours that this big kid spent in the warm cab of a twelve-wheeled Standard Class 9F 2-10-0 locomotive talking to the driver, the fireman and the man who was my host as this majestic iron horse snorted and puffed its way “over the Alps,” as the line between Alton and Alresford is known, hauling a heavy passenger train that was full of mums, dads and children on school half-term holidays.

What an evocative and memorable experience it was being on the footplate of one of the biggest and most powerful steam engines in Britain listening to the steady rhythmic beat of the exhaust barking from the chimney as it pounded up the gradients and the shriek of the whistle drifting across the lovely Hampshire countryside on a grey and gloomy Autumn (Fall) day. That was a very special time of Church.

And I have been on floating churches as well. I think of the forty five minute crossing on a big Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) car ferry called the MV Isle of Mull from the Scottish West Highland town of Oban across the Firth of Lorn and Sound of Mull to the little village of Craignure on the Isle of Mull.

The scenery of the West Highlands is so beautiful that whether wet or dry I always do this sailing standing outside on the sundeck at the stern of the ferry and I have had many interesting conversations with complete strangers about God and faith, the amazing birds and wildlife of the Scottish Highlands, the legends linking Mary Magdalene to this part of the world and Scottish spiritual and political history.

And CalMac have a small floating Church called the MV Loch Buie that does the ten minute crossing from a tiny village called Fionnphort on the Isle of Mull to the Holy isle of Iona across the stretch of water called the Sound of Iona. I have had many times of fellowship on this 100 foot (30m) long diesel powered Church as it has trundled its way across the water between Mull and Iona. Precious times of talking to other Children of God about Faith and the Father we love, the island of Iona and other subjects.

In fact CalMac have several big floating Churches and quite a lot of small ones that service the lifeline routes to isolated communities in the Highlands and the islands that would otherwise be cut off from the world.

In September 2014 I was staying on the Isle of Mull in a rented log cabin on the shore of a loch near the village of Bunessan and one morning decided to go to Fionnphort and sit behind the ferry terminal and have my morning prayers and a time of contemplation looking across the Sound of Iona to the wee island that is so special to me.

A CalMac floating Church. MV Loch Buie approaching the slipway at Fionnphort on the Isle of Mull

Afterwards I went into the terminal to get myself a coffee and packet of the excellent Nevis Bakery Highland Shortbread that they sell and found myself talking to a lovely couple who had moved to the village many years ago.

They had once lived somewhere else but after being thrown out of their church God provided for them to move to Fionnphort to do His work. Despite not having been to a church for twenty years this couple had a faith and love for God that was light years ahead of many Sunday morning churchgoing Christians and the time spent talking with these deeply spiritual people was a very lovely and very special time of Church.

And during my visits to Iona I have had many times of Church. Not just in the old abbey at services run by the Iona Community and private times of prayer and contemplation but when sitting in the garden of the Argyll Hotel, where I stay, talking to other Children of God about matters spiritual. And I have even done Church sitting in the hotel's dining room when eating and talking to other guests.

Yes, it is good and necessary for God's Children to meet together and share fellowship, sing praise to our Father and be fed good teaching but it doesn't have to be every week and it doesn't have to be in a building called "Church” because that is just a brick and tile construction.

What makes a building a “Church” is the people who meet within it and we can meet together and sing praise and be taught anywhere from a room in a pub (bar) to a beach. Church is where God's Children are gathered not the building they gather in.

Church is groups of people who are fed-up and disillusioned with the dry tedium of mainstream religious Churchianity and gather together in people's homes or meetings like the small Pub Church group I occasionally go to that gathers together once a month in a room off the courtyard of a pub called The Fleece in Witney town centre.

In March 2017 I had a meeting with one of our member companies in the town of Horncastle in the eastern county of Lincolnshire with a guy I have worked with for several years but it was only at this meeting that I discovered he is a Child of God and goes to a church in a nearby village.

We were talking about outdoor services and Celtic Christianity and he told me that when the village he lived in had needed a new shelter to keep people dry whilst waiting for a bus the church had played a prominent part in helping to raise funds for its construction.

The vicar had decided to celebrate the completion of the new bus shelter by holding a Sunday service in it so the church congregation and quite a lot of people from the village crammed into it or stood on the road around it and they held the service and a good and special time was had by all.

For aeons the heart of most British villages were the pub and the village shop but with the rise of town centre supermarkets and out of town shopping centres (malls) piling high and selling cheap many village shops and pubs have closed and these vital community areas have been lost forever.

During this meeting the guy I met said that the best thing the church had ever done was to remove half of the pews and make the church the community hub and it had become a bustling and lively 7 day a week centre for the village and a gathering place where people can get together and do everything from meeting for a coffee with their friends to watching plays and musicals and listening to concerts.

That church in Lincolnshire is a living church that is at the heart of the community which is where all churches should be. A church is serving God and His people just as effectively by being the community hub during the week as it is with services on a Sunday morning.

So for me Church is not buildings - Church is God's Children out and about in the world that we live in and we are at Church from the minute we get up to the minute we go to bed wherever we are, whatever we are doing and whoever we are with.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20

We are Church and the world is our Church


HEART IS WHERE YOUR HOME IS

I wonder if our perception of church can be linked to our perception of our home?

For many of us our home is the bricks (or stone or timber) and mortar that is our base. It is our castle. it is our refuge and it is ours - we have brought or rented a house or an apartment and personalised it into our home. And for many people their home is part of who they are and their identity.

I wonder if the same can be said of a building called Church?

In the past I regarded the churches that I went to as part of my identity and who I was. They were my spiritual home and the people at the church were part of my life. My church was where I felt at home - it was somewhere that was familiar and comfortable. Our home and our church are part of our identity and who we are, they are our comfort zone, and we wear them like an old familiar jumper or shirt.

For me all that has changed because in February 2008 God pulled my comfort zone away from me and all that had been part of who I was and my identity - my life, my wife, my home, my preaching ministry, my reputation, my family and my friends was taken away from me in the space of a few traumatic days and I was left with my job, my car, my boat, my clothes and two teddy bears…………….and God.

I was dragged out of my comfort zone very suddenly and very unexpectedly in a completely shocked and dazed state and led deep into a hot barren desert that was the Discomfort Zone. A zone where little is familiar and where change is almost constant.

The Discomfort Zone is a deeply spiritual place of oneness with God where life doesn't stand fill but flows like a river and for me this place where I was broken, humbled, tested, tried, remoulded and rebuilt has become my comfort zone.

During the years of my spiritual journey I have found an adventurous spirit within me and the rigidity and comfortable familiarity that goes with living in the Comfort Zone that was once so important to me is now dull and boring and I don't want it because it doesn't challenge me or stretch me. I like living in the Discomfort Zone because it is exciting, it is challenging and God is constantly pushing and stretching the boundaries of my life and my faith.

I like the Discomfort Zone because it is a place of great personal and spiritual growth, adventure and discovery and it is the ultimate expedition into new and uncharted places. I am settled in the constant state of unsettlement and it is a place that I love being.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

And with that my perception of home and church has changed so I am going to use a well known bible verse, some well known lyrics from a very famous hymn, a well known saying and the slogan of a British company to try and illustrate how my faith and love for God has shaped my concept of what home and church is.

Firstly the well known bible verse: " For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

And now the well known lyrics from a very famous hymn called “Be Thou My Vision” that is a great personal favourite of mine:

Thou my great Father, I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one. (second verse) and Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art. (fourth verse)

Thirdly this well known saying - Home is where you heart is.

And finally the slogan of a British firm of estate and letting agents (realtors) called Haart - Haart is where your home is.

If we allow God to do His transforming work within us He will place a love for Him in our hearts that is so deep, so powerful, so all-consuming, so life-changing and so faith-changing that He just melts us and we become a little child who is utterly besotted with our Daddy. We love Him so much that we cannot take our eyes off Him. We adore Him so totally that He is at the forefront of our minds every waking moment.

Our love for God is so total and we become so willing and so eager to please Him that we will do anything for Him. We live for Him and Him alone and our lives and our thoughts are centred on our Heavenly Daddy.

God becomes our treasure and we gladly hand our hearts over to Him for Him to do with us as He pleases because He is the Daddy that we are just totally deeply and madly in love with. Where our treasure is so our heart will be also. As God becomes our treasure and we become one with Him then He becomes our home here on earth and we become His treasure.

And Heart is where our home is - God is our heart and He comes to live within our hearts by awakening the slumbering Spirit of God that lives within us all, the very same Christ Spirit that lives within the heart of Jesus, and so He in us dwells and we become one with Him.

Home is where our heart is and Heart is where our home is - our hearts are in God and He, our home, lives within our hearts. The Celts called God “Hu” - the God of light - and when the God of light comes to live within man and woman we become “Hu-Man” - we become the light of God here on earth.

Somebody I was talking to, who knows my deep love of the Scottish Highlands and the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides, once asked me which part of Scotland was my favourite? This was my reply:

The Holy isle of Iona is my spiritual home and every time I step off the little ferry that is the island's only link to the outside world and walk up the slipway I say to God "I'm home Daddy, I'm home" and tears of joy come to my eyes. It is a bleak and barren little windswept lump of rock but for me it is the most beautiful place in the world and a tiny piece of this precious island lives deep within my heart and is with me wherever I am.

But for scenic beauty most of the Scottish Highlands and the Hebrides are so beautiful that I think it is impossible to choose somewhere that is my favourite. I think the answer to your question has to be that my favourite part of the Scottish Highlands or Hebrides is wherever I am at the time.”

Like most people for many years my home was the place I lived in, whether that be a house or an apartment, and that formed a very essential part of my identity and who I was and my spiritual home was the church I went to and likewise that was also part of my identity and who I was. My bricks and mortar home and my bricks and mortar church were my comfort zone but not any more.

So total is the change that God has done to me both within and without that no longer are buildings my home, my church and my identity. My new identity is the person that I have become, the person that God has created me to be.

He took the old person that I had made in the image of myself and destroyed me and rebuilt me. My worldly heart of stone was replaced with a Heavenly heart of flesh and He moulded me, and is still moulding me, into the person that He has created me to me.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:36

After that somewhat eventful time in February 2008 my destruction was so total and my situation so desperate that there was no earthly way that I could do anything to restore myself. I was beyond any human hope so I had to place all my trust and all my hope in my God to restore me and put right all the wrong as He promised at the time that it happened.

I had to learn to become totally dependent on Him and leave my future life in His hands knowing that He is the God of the impossible and that in time, His time and possibly a long time, all would be put right and all would be well - “For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37 (New Living Translation)

And in learning this my focus switched from earthly things to God - He became my hope, He became my home, He became my love and He became my life. He became the meaning and the reason for my life. He became the reason for my existence and best of all He became the Daddy that I am totally besotted with.

When God became my home my earthly home no longer mattered to me and was no longer part of my identity, who I am or my refuge and my security. My identity became who I am in God and He became my refuge and my security. Wherever I am God is because He is one with me and I am one with Him.

Thou in me dwelling and I with thee one.

So for me home is no longer my tiny studio apartment in a mews in the centre of a pretty old 18th century market town that is surrounded by the lovely rolling hills of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds but just as my favourite part of the Scottish Highlands and Hebrides is wherever I am at the time so home is wherever I am at the time because God, who is my heart and my home, is always with me.

Home can be here in my little apartment but if I am away on business then home is the Premier Inn hotel that I am staying in that night. When I am on Iona my home for the week is the Argyll Hotel with its friendly owners and staff. Home can be a holiday cottage that I am renting and if I am away camping then home is my offroad trailer tent and the two awning tents that sit on the ground alongside it.

Because God is with me home is wherever I am at the time. The God who is my home is where my heart is because my heart is where my home, God, is.

And the same is true of Church. Apart from two very dry and lifeless Lent services in 2015 I haven't been to a building called Church for nine years and the only teacher I have had has been God who in hundreds, and quite probably thousands, of hours of prayer, contemplation and daily bible reading has taught me, instructed me and guided me.

I don't have to go to Church to be with God because He is with me 24/7/365. During the day I walk by His side with my hand in His and at night I curl up like a little Child in His strong and gentle arms.

And I have learnt that if God is with me then Church is not a building but the world I live in and I am at Church from the minute I get up to the minute I go to bed because whatever I am doing, wherever I am and whoever I am with is Church. My Church is life and life is my Church.

Some while ago I was talking to an elderly gentleman about the abbey on the Holy isle of Iona and he said that when he had been there he had felt no sense of the presence of God. I told him that we don't need to go to a building called “Church” or “Abbey” to be in God's presence because God should be with us and within us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year for however many years are our allotted span on this little orb.

God doesn't live within buildings called “Church”, “Cathedral” or Abbey” because He is with us, within us and around us wherever we are and whatever we are doing 24 hours a day every day of the year.

So we don't need to go to a man-made temple to be in God's presence because each of us is a spiritual temple and His presence lives within us. The Spirit of God, the Christ Spirit, lives within our hearts and takes over and controls our lives, our words, our thoughts and our deeds and in time our flickering flames of faith becomes a mighty blaze that lights up the darkness of the fallen world that we live in.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” 1 Corinthians 6:19

I have spent many hours in the rugged old abbey on the rugged old isle of Iona at services run by the Iona Community and in private times of prayer and God, my Daddy, has been with me every minute of every one of those hours. And when I have left the abbey and gone up to the White Strand of the Monks, my favourite beach, to sit quietly in prayer and contemplation or gone back to the Martyrs Bay cafe in the village for a coffee and a cake or a plate of chips (fries) He has been with me because He is always with me and always within me.

Thou my great Father, I Thy true Child; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one. The presence of God is within us and we are the presence of God in the world. We don't need to go to a building called “Church”, “Cathedral” or “Abbey” to be with God because He lives within us 24/7/365.

Home is where our heart is and our heart is where God, our home, is

Going home to my spiritual home.
The village on the Holy isle of Iona seen from the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry




SO WHO IS THIS GOD?

So who is this God who is our heart and our home?

Some of you reading this will have grown up with a father who loved you, cherished you, took an interest in you and was there as a strong and gentle rock caring for you and being your role model as you grew up. But many of us, far too many of us, will have grown up with a father who was cold, distant, uncaring and wanted nothing to do with us.

A father with whom we didn't have that precious Father-Child relationship that gives children such confidence, peace and stability and launches them into the world as emotionally stable and balanced adults. And some of you may have experienced the nightmare of a father who was sexually abusive.

I am not going to say anything about my own upbringing except that I didn't have, and still don't have, a loving Father-Child relationship with my human father and I know how much that hurt and how badly it affected me until I was well into my forties. And how much that lack of a strong male role model caused me problems with my relationship with myself and my relationships with others which took a long time to heal.

And my lack of a loving Father-Child relationship as I grew up may go a long way towards explaining why I have always been a loner who doesn't like and doesn't want the company of other people except for my wife. But then my calling is to be a contemplative person so being a loner is quite useful!

But as I have no wish to dishonour my father or do him down I shall say no more except to say that God has become my Father and for the last nine years I have had that amazing stabilising and deeply healing Father-Child relationship that I never had as I was growing up.

And this great and most exciting discovery happened very early on in my spiritual journey. After my life imploded in February 2008 God was quick to break down my barriers and reveal Himself to me not as the religious legalistic God that I had grown up with as an Anglican and taught as a Methodist preacher but as my Father and my Daddy.

And in the months that followed I learnt that our God is not just the majestic and magnificent King of Heaven and earth and the creator of the sun, the moon, the stars and this amazingly beautiful world that we live in but He became my Daddy. He became the Daddy that I had yearned for as a child and as a teenager - my strong, gentle and loving rock who adores me and is besotted with me. The child that He cannot take His eyes off and for whom love is all that He is capable of.

And as I began understanding this new found Daddy God I began to receive deep inner healing that in time would set me free of the hurt and pain I had suffered from the parental physical violence and verbal abuse I had endured as I grew up.

Violence and abuse which by the time I was 18 had kicked me, punched me and beaten me into crippling and destructive mental and emotional illness and rather than entering adult life as a stable and happy young man I staggered into my adult life angry, broken, punch-drunk and feeling worthless.

This Heavenly healing of my screaming childhood pain would change my life and my faith from the inside out and there grew between my Daddy God and I that precious Father-Child relationship I had wanted for so long.

And as this beautiful Father-Child relationship blossomed and grew this unhappy, unstable and hurting Child of God began to feel loved and wanted and precious and special and the peace of Heavenly love filled my heart and my life and gradually replaced the turmoil of worldly hurt and settled me down.

For much of my teenage and adult life I had been out of control and uncontrollable and I had left behind me a trail of chaos, hurt and pain and a job record where I chopped and changed employment every six-eight months. But God gently took control and as His never-ending river of love washed over me so His peace filled my hurting heart and my stormy life and personality began to sail into calm waters.

As time went on the darkness of my hurting life was bathed with the healing light of Heaven and I was reunited with my creator Father and I was reunited with myself. I was no longer at war with God, with myself and the world but at peace with God, at peace with myself and at peace with the world.

And as I walked this healing road my Daddy God set me free from my mental and emotional illness and I was led to a good place mentally, emotionally and spiritually. A place where peace replaced the turmoil, despair turned to hope, anger became happiness and instability became stability. Life became not something to be endured but enjoyed and my Daddy set free an adventurous spirit within me.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19

Though conversely during my spiritual journey of adventure, discovery and healing there have been several occasions when I have felt that my life was very out of my control but I knew that Daddy was firmly in control and that I had nothing to worry about.

I was living out those those words from our friend Isaiah I have quoted in the previous chapter “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them” and they were strange times when God was doing strange things to me but I kept my eyes on Him and my trust in Him and those odd times passed.

In the early days of the discovery of God as my Daddy I struggled with a problem that took a long time to overcome. I wanted God as my Daddy because I had grown up without the Father-Child relationship that every child deserves and needs yet at the same time I was holding my Heavenly Daddy at a distance from me because I didn't want Him to hurt me like my earthly Dad had done.

The gentleness of God's love restrains the fire of His passion and over the first year of my spiritual journey I walked a healing road where I allowed my new found Daddy to gradually get closer and closer until one day in April 2009, in a hotel room on the western outskirts of the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh feeling very down and totally fed-up, I broke down in floods of tears and collapsed on the floor and my Heavenly Daddy scooped me up in His arms and I have never left them since.

And as I lay there completely broken and in a deep dark pit of despair I wept my heart out and my Daddy tenderly whispered these words to me that I have never forgotten and which have been such a source of strength and encouragement during those dark and desperate days when I was so tired and so worn-out from standing for my marriage and fighting a brutal spiritual battle, that at times almost overwhelmed me, that I felt I had nothing left to fight with:

All I ask is that you love me. I will do the rest”

Those words are echoed in one of the three bible verses that have kept me going during my spiritual battles and which have become my favourites:

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

It is interesting to note that 14 is the biblical number for Deliverance and Salvation and Exodus 14:14 is 14+14 = 28. 28 is the biblical number for Eternal Life. Our Lord will deliver us and save us from our times of trouble and turmoil and we need just rest and trust in Him.

That evening in my room at the Premier Inn hotel at South Queensferry in the Spring of 2009 was a profoundly life-changing and deeply healing moment that I have never forgotten and never will.

I want to make a critically important point here. Absolutely central to our healing is forgiving those who hurt us. As I have written and said on more occasions than I can remember “forgiveness is the ignition key that fires up the engine of healing” and if we don't forgive those who hurt us God ain't gonna heal us.

And that is absolutely not negotiable.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15

Forgiving those who hurt us is a command from God and to not forgive someone who has hurt us is disobedience to God. Disobedience is a sin and and God will NOT bless us or heal us. That is also not negotiable.

Your healing is 100% dependent on forgiving those who have hurt you and if you do you cut the chains of bondage that bind you to the hurt and pain of your past and you set yourself free to walk away from it and begin your healing journey.

I forgave my parents for the way they abused me and hurt me long, long ago and in doing so I set myself free to walk a road of total and transformational healing so I speak from experience.

No Forgiveness. NO healing

And I want to make another very important point here.

We live in a world where far too many people refuse to take responsibility for their actions and blame others - “wasn't my fault, guv. It was 'im.” That is both disingenuous and dishonest and anybody who indulges in this selfish luxury is a deluded liar and irresponsible.

And I particularly dislike the way that so-called celebrities wash their dirty private linen in public in the newspapers and on television and discredit and dishonour their parents or husbands and wives.

We are all responsible for our own actions.

One morning many years ago at the previous company I worked for I was walking through the warehouse where our new packaging was stored reading some notes on a clipboard and suddenly found myself flat on the hard concrete floor in some pain and swearing.

I got up and looked behind me and saw the ends of the forks of a forklift truck parked in one of the aisles sticking out into the aisle that I was walking along. Instead of keeping an eye on what was around me I had been so absorbed in reading the notes on my clipboard that I hadn't seen the forks sticking out and had tripped over them and gone ass over tip.

We were required to report all accidents to our company Health & Safety Officer so I went to see him and told him what I had done and ensured that he knew I took full responsibility for my fall as it was my fault and I had no intention of suing the company for compensation as I was completely to blame.

Being the company's packaging engineer I spent a lot of time in the warehouse doing all sorts of tests and techy stuff so I asked our 'elf and safety man if he could tell the forklift truck drivers to be a little more careful about parking their steeds in future.

We are all responsible for the things that we do and I hate this compensation culture that has developed in Britain over the last twenty years and which has made running a business a nightmare for company managers. I well remember the exasperated Managing Director of one our member companies telling me that if he didn't have suppliers, customers and staff he would really love his job.

Health and Safety is necessary in all companies for the protection of staff from danger and death but Britain has gone too far the opposite way. I was at one of our member companies who were being audited by the Environment Agency (EA), the government department in England that is responsible for regulating environmental legislation, and the very officious and bureaucratic EA officer told us that all health and safety is necessary.

I told the EA officer that some health and safety is sensible and necessary but an awful lot of health and safety is nanny state nonsense. The senior managers of the company, who were in the audit, agreed with me.

Britain has become a nanny state country where kids have been banned from playing old childhood games like conkers* and running around the school playground in case the little darlings fall over and hurt themselves and the parents sue the school which is ridiculous. It's nanny state health and safety and rampant political correctness that have contributed to taking the Great out of Britain and drowning British children's natural spirit of adventure with the parental spirit of fear.

When I was a kid growing up in a small village we hurtled around the school playground and fell over and during the school holidays our parents kicked us out of the house after breakfast and we spent the whole day outside. We ran around, we fell off our bikes, we climbed trees and we fell out of trees and we came home covered in scratches and bruises and if our conkers exploded as were belting our friends conker and the bits hit us we just scraped it out of our hair and reminded ourselves to ask mum to bake our conkers in the oven to make them rock hard and unsmashable.

These days kids are confined to their houses by paranoid parents who are scared that they might get hurt and they get fat and overweight playing with their X-Box.

The casualties of this revolting greed-driven compensation culture, which has been fuelled by parasitic compensation lawyers, have been common-sense, honesty and integrity and taking responsibility for our own actions ………………………….It wasn't my fault guv.

Yes, my mother and father created the mess that I was but the trail of chaos, hurt and pain that I left behind me as I stumbled through life is entirely my fault and I take full responsibility for my actions and the suffering that I caused others. I am totally to blame - “it was my fault, guv.”

Whilst I hold my mother and father fully responsible for making me the broken dysfunctional mess that I was I long ago forgiven them and am no longer angry with them or angry with the world. Indeed rather the opposite and whilst I still struggle with my parents I also feel sympathy for them and pray for them every day despite having been thrown out of my family and disowned by them in 2008 when my marriage collapsed.

I ache for the pain that my badly hurting parents have carried for so many years and I long for them to know the healing, the peace and the freedom that our Daddy God has given me and what I would give to wrap my arms around my mum and dad and say “I love you.”

My parents are now in their twilight years and it saddens me that for most of our lives we have been a broken, hurting and divided family at war with ourselves and at war with each other. Several decades of what could have been a close and loving family enjoying happy experiences and precious times together have instead been decades of anger, hatred, division, violence and abuse.

What a dreadful waste of our God-given lives, marriages and families.

And myself and my siblings have continued those sins of our families down through yet another generation with our own children and in the case of my daughter an even younger generation as my parents are not just grandparents but great-grandparents. The hurt continues……………………..

Every morning I pray for God to break the generational curse of our family and to reunite my family, my daughter and my grandchildren with Him, with themselves and in His good time with me as He has promised. What I would give to see my broken and divided family reunited, fully restored and at peace with themselves and with me.

I know my family history on both sides well and when I look back three of four generations I see a family that didn't stand a chance. My parents were shaped by the broken dysfunctional mess that my grandparents were and so on and so forth down through the generations so there was no prospect of them ever having a happy loving upbringing and becoming happy and loving parents themselves.

And then we take our familial generational curse and dump it on our spouse……………………….

When our husbands or wives leave us and our marriages collapse it is all to easy to play the blame game and point the finger at the husband or wife who abandoned us but marriage is a two way street and it takes two people to break a marriage as much as it takes two people to make a marriage.

The collapse of my marriage was traumatic and humiliating to say the least and in the first couple of months after my wife left me I was all too happy to murder her. But God quickly took hold of me and turned my finger of judgement round so that it wasn't pointing at my wife but at me and that was a very humbling and very painful experience.

Because I saw someone who was a very nasty and unpleasant man and when that realisation sank in the full force of the horrible brute my gentle but badly hurting wife had had to live with impacted me. I had failed my wife and badly and the truth is that I didn't deserve her and she deserved someone very much better.

It is all to easy to blame others when things go wrong but that is a cowardly cop-out and true inner healing of our hurting lives can only start when we point our finger of judgement at ourselves rather than others and look deep inside us. As my mother used to say “Simon, get real” and when we get real with ourselves it is often a very painful and very unpleasant experience.

The only person we can ever change is ourselves and that happens not by striving to do it in our own strength but by getting real and looking deep inside ourselves, apologising to those we have hurt and asking for their forgiveness then handing our lives over to God and letting Him take charge to mould us into the people that He has created us to be and set us free of the hurt and the pain that we have carried for so long.

It is when we get real with ourselves that the healing journey can start.

And as for changing others, including our spouses, we pray for them and leave it to God.

I have been around the Christian healing ministry for many years and a very long time ago I once heard a wise old man describe God's healing of us as being a bit like peeling the layers off an onion. In His time, and sometimes a long time, God gently removes all our layers of hurt and the walls that we have put up to protect ourselves from being hurt in the same way that we peel the layers from an onion.

And after a wee while we have removed all the layers from the onion and get to the core. Likewise in time God peels away all the layers of our onion and He arrives at our core. No longer are we the hurting worldly adult with more fronts than a weather system but a scared and frightened little child crying out to be healed and loved.


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